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26 June 2019, by: Quintin van Jaarsveld


The 2019 Super Rugby champions will be crowned in a fresh and fitting final as the Crusaders and Jaguares collide in Christchurch on Saturday (09:35 SA time). It’s the established guard against the new rising force. The Crusaders are chasing a record-stretching 10th title and the Jaguares their maiden championship.

Both teams are deserved of their place in the decider. The ‘Saders have been their classy, dominant selves, comfortably topping the table at the end of the season. They showed their play-off prowess to hold off the Highlanders (38-14) and Hurricanes (30-26) en route to their third straight final.

The Jaguares have been the revelation of the season. After a shaky start, they’ve bloomed into true title contenders and enter their first-ever final off the back of seven straight wins. They showed championship-calibre composure to edge the Chiefs 21-16 in a tense quarter-final. Thereafter and they dominated the Brumbies in their 39-7 destruction in their first semi-final appearance.

Both teams are full of Test stars. The Crusaders boast the word-class Sam Whitelock, talismanic Matt Todd, incomparable Kieran Read and the magnificent Richie Mo’unga to name a few, along with this season’s most prolific finisher, Sevu Reece, who’s an All Black in the making. Having bagged a brace in the humdinger against the Hurricanes at the weekend, Reece is just one try shy of the tournament-record 16 set by Ben Lam last season.

The Jaguares, meanwhile, are powered by Los Pumas stars like the evergreen Agustin Creevy, towering Tomas Lavanini, phenomenal Pablo Matera and arguably the best halfback combination in Super Rugby in Tomas Cubelli and Joaquin Diaz Bonilla.

Yet, for all their star power, it’s their sublime, seamless cohesion that separates them from the rest. Both teams embody the notion that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, playing with a symbiotic synergy that overwhelms their opposition. This has seen them score more points per game than any other teams this season, the Crusaders averaging 33.2 and the Jaguares 28.9.

Styles make fights, as they say in the combat sports world, and the same is true in rugby. The Crusaders are the best running side in the competition by some distance, having scored the most tries (81), made the most carries (2,134), metres (8,552) and clean breaks (251), while they rank second in defenders beaten (438) and offloads (182).

The Jaguares, in turn, have scored the most tries from attacking kicks this season. This will be an interesting sub-plot to look out for; will the tactic work against the ‘Saders, or will the hosts punish them like they did the ‘Canes? For all their ball-in-hand brilliance, the ‘Saders’ tactically outplayed the ‘Canes and their positional play was outstanding.

Defensively, little separates the sides, with the Crusaders ranked third (85.7%) and the Jaguares fifth (85.6%). With the Jaguares employing a press defence, Mo’unga’s pinpoint crosskicks could prove particularly effective. While the visitors will be well-served to target the flyhalf channel, where Mo’unga has been found wanting this campaign with just a 65% tackle success.

The set pieces are split. The Jaguares’ 91.8% lineout success rate is the third-highest this season, with the ‘Saders in lowly 10th place with 87.2%. The Argentinians were particularly impressive in this department against the Brumbies, poaching four of the Canberra outfit’s throws. Guido Petti Pagadizaval stole two of those to take his season tally to 13, three more than any other player and more than three times the Crusaders’ best of four, shared by Scott Barrett, Whitelock and Read.

The Crusaders have an ever greater and potentially decisive advantage at scrum time, though, where the feared Bajada is nowhere to be seen this year. Instead, the Jaguares have the worst scrum in the 2019 competition and were bulldozed by the Brumbies.

Above all, history and the travel factor virtually make Saturday’s final mission impossible for the Jaguares, even though they’ve won five of their last six games away from home, including their last three on the bounce.

The Crusaders have never lost a knockout match in Christchurch and are undefeated in their last 30 home games (29 wins and a 21-all draw with the Sharks in Round 12). The last time they lost at home to a team from outside New Zealand was in Round One of the 2015 season against the Rebels. They also have unrivalled finals experience and success. This will be their 14th appearance in the final, more than twice as many as any other team (Brumbies – 6); they’ve won nine of their previous 13 including their last two in a row.

On the other side of the spectrum, this will be the Jaguares’ first foray into the final, as aforementioned. Only four teams in history have won the final on their first attempt – the Blues in 1996, Crusaders in 1998, Bulls in 2007 and Reds in 2011. What’s more, only twice in history has the final been won by a team playing outside their home country. Both times by the Crusaders, against the Brumbies in 2000 and the Lions in 2017.

In addition to the travel factor, the Jaguares were no match for the tournament’s most successful side in their only two head-to-head battles. The Crusaders prevailed by an average margin of 22 points. The odds are simply too stacked against the Argentinians. I expect a game effort from the Jaguares, but it’ll be the Crusaders who’ll be crowned champions.

Prediction: Crusaders by 12. (Suggested BET – Crusaders by 1-12 points)

Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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